Since the humiliating defeat of Pakatan Harapan in the Malacca, Sarawak and Johor elections, there have been calls by its leaders for the opposition parties to unite.
A “big tent” unity approach is seen as the way forward against a resurgent Barisan Nasional.
This came about after PKR contested the polls using its own logo instead of PH’s, and the opposition parties were seen as fragmented and opposing one another.
The truth is, PH leaders seem to be focusing on how to beat BN with the suggestion of bringing all opposition parties within a coalition, without thinking about what would happen if they win the election. Are they not aware that many voters desire enduring stability in governance? It seems that the means and ends do not measure up.
The underlying factor that brought the opposition parties together in the 2018 general election was the need to ensure Najib’s defeat and to end the biggest corruption scandal in the history of the country.
What happened after the objective was met? The political games played by Bersatu to show that it was the sole protector of Malay rights, in competition with Umno, resulting in parties like the DAP being accused by supporters of being silent on Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s racist rhetoric. The so-called Malay Dignity Congress was used to play up the racial card to benefit a party that had won the lowest number of seats in the 2018 general election.
Mahathir capitalised on PKR’s power struggle it to ensure that those who opposed Anwar Ibrahim’s aim of becoming prime minister were cemented in critical ministerial portfolios.
PH was torn apart by racial rhetoric from Umno and Pas. At the same time, other parties like the DAP had to face the anger of their supporters.
What was obvious was PH did not have a coherent ideology of governance and justice, and this brought about a string of defeats in five by-elections with the majority of the Malay community registering protest votes against PH, which they perceived to be controlled by the DAP – even though such an accusation was not based on facts.
Controversial issues such as the Mahathir’s opposition to a significant increase in the minimum wage and the scrapping of highway tolls and his statement that the PH manifesto was not written in stone revealed an incoherent PH government.
The absence of a coherent ideology that was acceptable to all of PH component parties was one of the core reasons the coalition failed. The result was the Sheraton Move that revealed a pact that had failed to provide a stable and viable government.
The current rhetoric about a big tent with parties that have differing ideologies would result in the emergence of the same issues if ethno-religious parties such as Pejuang and Bersatu are going to be part of the coalition.
Before speaking about a big tent approach in facing BN, it is vital to discuss a coherent ideology which is critical for a coalition to survive in the long run. The absence of a shadow cabinet itself shows that PH is not prepared to govern.
BN is a strong political entity despite being riddled with corruption scandals due to its coherent ideology of stability and development.
PH and other opposition parties have to fix the missing link because it is not just about victory, but what happens after attaining victory.
It is time for opposition parties to organise a forum and thrash out what their fundamental ideology of unity would be if they govern the country. Many discerning voters would want such a move. – The Malaysian Insight